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JCB get special permission to take their hydrogen powered digger onto UK roads

The Minister for Transport has given JCB special permission to take their World-first, hydrogen-powered backhoe loader onto roads and buildings sites in the UK.

The digger is powered by a purpose-engineered internal combustion engine that uses hydrogen gas as the energy source, another innovation resulting from JCB’s ongoing efforts to manufacture equipment that is as clean as possible.

JCB Chairman, Lord Bamford (pictured above) said in 2019: ‘We make machines that are powered by diesel, so we have to find a solution and we are doing something about it now.’

The company had shown off the World’s first electric mini-digger the year before and were also leading the way on clean diesel by eradicating the majority of harmful emissions from their engines. By 2020 they had developed a bigger hydrogen fuel cell which they put in a 20-tonne excavator.

At this point the company acknowledged that this technology was too expensive for construction equipment so Lord Bamford challenged the engineering team to think differently and develop a combustion engine for a digger that runs entirely on hydrogen.

This saw the development of the world’s first hydrogen-powered backhoe loader, the backhoe loader you might be driving past quite soon.

On the announcement of JCB receiving this special permission, Technology and Decarbonisation Minister Jesse Norman said: ‘From cars to construction sites, industry has a vital role in decarbonising our economy and creating green jobs and prosperity. JCB’s investment in greener equipment is a great example of how industry can make this happen, using alternative fuels to generate sustainable economic growth.’

Lord Bamford said: ‘Securing this vehicle special order from the Department for Transport is an important first step in getting JCB machines that are powered by hydrogen combustion engines to and from British building sites using the public highway. It’s an endorsement that JCB is on the right path in pursuit of its net zero ambitions.’

‘JCB’s hydrogen-powered backhoe loader is a world first in our industry, a digger with a purpose-engineered internal combustion engine that uses hydrogen gas as the energy source. It’s a real breakthrough – a zero CO2 fuel providing the power to drive the pistons in an internal combustion engine, a technology that’s been around for over 100 years, a technology that we are all familiar with.’

For more background, see our interview with Jamie Bamford from 2020

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